May 12 coronavirus news

By Veronica Rocha, Elise Hammond and Melissa Mahtani , CNN

Updated 1:32 AM ET, Thu May 13, 2021
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8:30 p.m. ET, May 12, 2021

CDC has reports of fewer than 10,000 "breakthrough" Covid-19 infections in vaccinated people

From CNN’s Maggie Fox

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recorded 9,245 cases of “breakthrough” infections in people vaccinated against coronavirus, an official said Wednesday, but the evolution of new variants may make these vaccine failures more common.

“As of April 26th, among 95 million people who were fully vaccinated in the US, 9,245 breakthrough infections have been reported through national passive surveillance,” the CDC’s Dr. Heather Scobie told a meeting of the agency’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. 

Passive surveillance means the CDC is not actively looking for cases of people who develop infections, so the true case count is likely higher.

What health officials are really worried about are new variants or the virus that reduce vaccine effectiveness. As effectiveness goes down, more breakthrough cases can be expected. Scobie said the CDC will start measuring this.

“Starting soon, a CDC project with Emerging Infections Program sites should allow estimation of the frequency of SARS-CoV-2 variants among vaccinated and unvaccinated people in the US,” she said.

But CDC is planning on vaccine makers having to refresh their vaccine formulations to match the evolving virus, Scobie said. “Periodic update of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines is likely to be needed,” she said.

7:09 p.m. ET, May 12, 2021

Mixing Covid-19 vaccines tied to more side effects, early UK data suggests

From CNN’s Jacqueline Howard

People who got mixed doses of coronavirus vaccines — receiving a different vaccine type as a second dose than the first dose — appear to be more likely to experience mild side effects, such as fever, chills, fatigue or headache, researchers in the UK reported Wednesday.

But the side effects following mix-and-match vaccinations were short-lived and there were no other safety concerns, the researchers reported in the Lancet medical journal.

"These are the type of reactions you do expect with vaccine," Dr. Matthew Snape, an associate professor of pediatrics and vaccinology at the University of Oxford and chief investigator on the trial, said during a media briefing.

"They are more or less the same types of reactions that you're seeing with the standard schedules. It's just that they're occurring more frequently, and we're seeing both more frequent both in mild and moderate symptoms — but they resolved quickly," Snape said.

It's something to keep an eye out for when giving mixed doses, the researchers said. Mixing vaccine refers to receiving one type as a first dose and another type as a second dose.  

"One of the things it's telling us is that, for example, you wouldn't want to immunize a ward full of nurses on the same day with a mixed schedule because you may have higher rates of absenteeism in the next day,” Snape said. 

The new research included 830 adults 50 and older who were randomly assigned to four different vaccine schedules involving the Oxford/AstraZeneca and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines, with first and second doses given 28 days apart.

They either got the AstraZeneca vaccine as both doses; AstraZeneca as a first dose and Pfizer as a second dose; the Pfizer vaccine as both doses; or the Pfizer vaccine as a first dose and AstraZeneca as a second dose.

The researchers found that people who got different vaccines had more side effects following the second dose, with feverishness reported by 34% of those who received the AstraZeneca vaccine first and Pfizer vaccine second, compared with 10% of those given the AstraZeneca vaccine for both doses. 

Fever was reported by 41% of the people who received the Pfizer vaccine first and AstraZeneca vaccine second, compared with 21% of the volunteers given the Pfizer vaccine for both doses.

"Similar increases were observed for chills, fatigue, headache, joint pain, malaise, and muscle ache," the researchers wrote. They noted that people could take acetaminophen – sold under brand names such as Tylenol — to ease the side-effects.

There were no hospitalizations due to the symptoms and most of the increased reactions were seen within 48 hours after immunization, the researchers found. They noted that they did not see evidence of a rare blood clotting syndrome that’s been linked with the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines in any of the volunteers within a week after the second dose.

The researchers are now testing mixed administration of vaccines made by Moderna and Novavax. More research is also needed to evaluate immune responses following different types of schedules, the researchers noted.

7:03 p.m. ET, May 12, 2021

States won't get Johnson & Johnson vaccines next week

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins

A health department employee places boxes of Johnson and Johnson's Covid-19 vaccines in a refrigeration unit shortly after their delivery to Louisville Metro Health and Wellness headquarters on March 4 in Louisville, Kentucky.
A health department employee places boxes of Johnson and Johnson's Covid-19 vaccines in a refrigeration unit shortly after their delivery to Louisville Metro Health and Wellness headquarters on March 4 in Louisville, Kentucky. Jon Cherry/Getty Images

White House officials told governors during their weekly call that there won't be any doses of Johnson & Johnson's vaccine in next week's federal allocations, according to an official familiar with the matter. 

The move is another sign of the repeated problems that have plagued J&J's rollout in the US. Officials had once hoped it would be key to quick vaccinations, given it requires only one dose compared to the others that require two. But J&J has faced multiple issues, including limited shipments and a brief pause to evaluate a link to rare blood clots. 

Most problems have stemmed from a production plant in Baltimore that ruined 15 million potential J&J vaccines earlier this year due to poor quality control and contamination of vaccine ingredients. That facility, which is run by Emergent BioSolutions and is still awaiting FDA authorization, has come under increasing scrutiny after a report by the FDA detailed multiple flaws, including that there was "no assurance that other batches have not been subject to cross-contamination."

Two of Emergent BioSolutions' executives have now agreed to testify on Capitol Hill next week. 

Rep. Jim Clyburn told CNN Wednesday morning there appeared to be "untoward" events taking place and said the House's select committee on the coronavirus was looking at the two executives, Fuad El-Hibri and Robert Kramer. 

"They all made millions in stock transactions while they seem to be hiding stuff from the public," Clyburn said. "So we want to make sure that no laws were broken. Certainly we don't know that yet."

5:49 p.m. ET, May 12, 2021

Evidence shows Covid-19 vaccine effectiveness is "remarkably consistent," CDC says

From CNN's Maggie Fox

A doctor prepares vaccines for a Covid-19 vaccine clinic at a Hindu temple Sanatan Dharma Temple on Saturday, May 8 in Norwalk, CA.
A doctor prepares vaccines for a Covid-19 vaccine clinic at a Hindu temple Sanatan Dharma Temple on Saturday, May 8 in Norwalk, CA. Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

Coronavirus vaccines made by Moderna and Pfizer continue to be more than 90% effective, based on various studies, a US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention official said Wednesday. 

A review of the efficacy of mRNA vaccines – those that use messenger RNA to deliver immunity – shows two doses provide strong immunity in a variety of groups, Dr. Katherine Fleming-Dutra of CDC’s respiratory diseases branch told a meeting of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

A single dose is less effective, the studies have shown.

“Initial COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness estimates from recently published reports are demonstrating remarkably consistent results across studies with a variety of methods and populations,” Fleming-Dutra said.

Studies are ongoing, she added.

“An important vaccine effectiveness priority is to understand the duration of protection provided by Covid-19 vaccines,” she added. “This will inform the question about the need for a booster.”

Another factor – new variants. So far, none seem to greatly affect the effectiveness of vaccines.

“It is important to take into account changes in the circulating variants over time,” Fleming-Dutra said.

5:33 p.m. ET, May 12, 2021

CDC director recommends use of Pfizer Covid vaccine in 12-15-year-olds

From CNN's Maggie Fox

The director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said Wednesday the agency now recommends the use of Pfizer/BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine in 12-15-year-olds.

“Today, I adopted CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ (ACIP) recommendation that endorsed the safety and effectiveness of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and its use in 12- through 15-year-old adolescents,” Walensky said in a statement.

“CDC now recommends that this vaccine be used among this population, and providers may begin vaccinating them right away,” she added.

ACIP voted 14-0 with one person recusing to recommend CDC endorse the vaccine for use in youths.

“Though most children with COVID-19 have mild or no symptoms, some children can get severely ill and require hospitalization. There have also been rare, tragic cases of children dying from COVID-19 and its effects, including multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C,” Walensky added.

“This official CDC recommendation follows Monday’s FDA decision to authorize emergency use of this vaccine in 12- through 15-year-old adolescents and is another important step to getting out of the COVID-19 pandemic, and closer to normalcy.”

5:27 p.m. ET, May 12, 2021

Maryland lifts all remaining restrictions on businesses

From CNN’s Rebekah Riess

Gym goers workout at LA Fitness in Hyattsville, Maryland, on March 13.
Gym goers workout at LA Fitness in Hyattsville, Maryland, on March 13. Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced that effective this Saturday, the state will be lifting all restrictions on all outdoor entertainment, sports venues, as well as all indoor entertainment venues, conventions and other businesses.

He said this is a direct result of the state's pace of vaccinations and “because of the subsequent declines in hospitalizations, positivity rate, transmission rates and case rates.” 

Restrictions will also be lifted on both indoor and outdoor dining.

“So effectively, as of Saturday, every business in Maryland will be able to open at 100 percent with no restrictions,” Hogan said.

Additionally, Hogan announced that Baltimore’s cruise terminal will also be allowed to reopen, as the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working directly with ports and the cruise industry representatives preparing for their safe return to businesses.

The governor said the only remaining restriction will be the indoor mask requirement, which will be lifted as soon as Maryland reaches the federal goal of 70% of adults receiving at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.

"President Biden set the goal of trying to get things back to normal by the Fourth of July. Here in Maryland, our plan is to get everything back to normal by Memorial Day," Hogan said. “Once again, the fastest way to get rid of our damn masks, and to put this pandemic behind us once and for all, is for every single eligible Marylander to get vaccinated as quickly as possible.”

According to the governor, more than 5.3 million vaccines have been administered in Maryland, with 65.4% of all Marylanders over 18 now vaccinated, and a current positivity rate of 2.74% – the lowest the state has seen since Sept. 29 of last year.

5:06 p.m. ET, May 12, 2021

Coronavirus variants remain susceptible to Pfizer vaccine, lab experiments show

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

The Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine appears to work against the B.1.526 variant first detected in New York, B.1.429 variant first seen in California and B.1.1.7 variant with a E484K mutation (B.1.1.7+ E484K) first identified in the United Kingdom, researchers have reported.

Based on lab experiments, those variants appeared susceptible to an important immune response that the vaccine elicited, researchers write in a letter that published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine. But researchers need to study just how effective the vaccine is against those variants in the real world.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was found to have an estimated effectiveness of 89.5% against any infection with the B.1.1.7 variant, a separate team of researchers wrote earlier this month in the New England Journal of Medicine.

That variant has acquired a mutation called E484K. Now, researchers from Pfizer, BioNTech and the University of Texas, write in the new letter that, "as compared with the previously reported neutralization of B.1.1.7-spike, the additional E484K mutation, which is also found in the B.1.351 and B.1.526 lineages, caused little compromise to neutralization."

The researchers came to that finding after conducting experiments involving 20 serum samples collected from 15 fully vaccinated people. They analyzed how the serum samples neutralized the original coronavirus strain, the B.1.429, B.1.526 and B.1.1.7+E484K variants.

The researchers found that all the serum samples neutralized the original strain, B.1.1.7+E484K and B.1.429 similarly. Neutralization of B.1.429 was "slightly lower."

The researchers noted that "because these data show that the newly emerged B.1.526, B.1.429, and B.1.1.7+E484K variants remain susceptible to an important vaccine-elicited immune effector (neutralizing antibody), they confirm the importance of mass immunization with current, highly effective, authorized vaccines as a central strategy to end the Covid-19 pandemic."

Also, new coronavirus variants continuously emerge, the researchers noted, and therefore more research is needed to monitor the constant shift of concerning variants.

4:43 p.m. ET, May 12, 2021

CVS will begin administering Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine in 12-15-year-olds on Thursday

From CNN’s Virginia Langmaid

CVS pharmacies will begin to administer Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine to children ages 12-15 on Thursday, the company said Wednesday.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended the vaccine in this age group on Wednesday.

The vaccine will be available for children 12-15 starting on Thursday in more than 5,600 locations nationwide, CVS said. Appointment scheduling is available now, and walk-In vaccinations will be possible at locations that have the Pfizer vaccine.

Consent from a parent or guardian will be required to get the vaccine in a CVS pharmacy, and an adult must be present with the child to get the vaccine.

The company said its Return Ready program, which hosts testing and vaccine clinics, will participate in the vaccine’s expanded eligibility. Schools can sign up with the program to sponsor their own vaccination clinics.

5:06 p.m. ET, May 12, 2021

Uber and Lyft to provide free rides to vaccination sites, Biden says

From CNN's Elise Hammond

Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

President Biden announced new ways to make the Covid-19 vaccine more accessible. The President said rideshare companies Uber and Lyft will provide free rides to vaccination sites from May 24 to July 4.

This is to help meet the administration’s goal of 70% of adults getting at least one coronavirus shot by July 4.

The White House said on Tuesday that it shared information on the location of about 80,000 vaccination sites with the rideshare companies and the two companies plan to promote the free rides in their apps.

Biden said Uber and Lyft will take people to clinics, wait for them, and then take them back at no cost.

"We are now on track to hit 60% of adults with at least one shot by next week, and we still have a lot of work to do to get the adult vaccination rate to 70%, but I believe we will get there," Biden said on Wednesday.